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Lehigh Cement Co. officials want Carroll County to define conveyor belt systems as a "utility" and has even written a proposed ordinance it wants the county to consider to make that law.

The company recently asked the county to include that ordinance in its ongoing Pathways plan -- a comprehensive rezoning for the entire county.

Westminster attorney J. Brooks Leahy submitted a draft ordinance on behalf of Lehigh to the county's Bureau of Comprehensive Planning on July 13. Carroll County currently has nothing on its books that defines conveyors.

"The Carroll County Code did not anticipate having to define conveyor belts," said Kurt Deery, Lehigh environmental engineer.

Lehigh plans to build a 4.5-mile long conveyor belt to move 10,600 tons of limestone per day from its New Windsor quarry to its Union Bridge plant.

The utility designation is important, because Lehigh's conveyor is proposed to pass through properties that are under agricultural preservation easements. Industrial uses are generally not allowed on ag preservation land, but utilities sometimes are.

Joe Kuhn, vice-president of the Carroll County Farm Bureau, said the bureau doesn't yet have position on the matter, but he said in the past the county's Agricultural Advisory Board has allowed cell phone towers and some high-power lines on farms.

Officials typically approve a utility if it doesn't affect day-to-day farming, he said.

"We tried to look at each one and see if it affected the farm as a whole before we approved or disapproved," he said.

The amendment proposes certain terms and conditions for conveyor belts, including exemptions from height, lot area, lot width and offset yard requirements and stipulations that conveyors be at least 100 feet from any "occupied structure" including a home, nursing home, day-care center, hospital, school, or church

Dan Strickler, president of the New Windsor Community Action Project, said his group opposes the draft because it does not require a setback from property lines. He would like to see a 100-yard setback.

"We're concerned about a commercial installation being that close to residential areas," he said.

Steve Horn, the county's director of planning, said the ordinance will indeed be considered, and could make it to the Board of County Commissioners for a decision.

"We're going to consider it as one of the many comments as part of the Pathways plan," he said.


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